Categories
cheese restaurant

Presidio Social Club

If you have ever won­dered where, in this city of hip­sters and hip­pies, are the WASPs, look no fur­ther. They're at the Pre­sidio Social Club, a new(ish) restau­rant in the beau­ti­ful­ly ren­o­vat­ed for­mer offi­cers' club in the Pre­sidio. Enter the din­ing room and behold! You're at the coun­try club. Men in blue but­ton downs neat­ly tucked into pressed khakis, women wear­ing pearl ear­rings and head­bands, blonde chil­dren still dressed in their school uni­forms. Nev­er in San Fran­cis­co have I seen so many East Coast-style WASPs in one place. It comes as no sur­prise that gin is fea­tured promi­nent­ly on the cock­tail menu. While their affin­i­ty for gin is well doc­u­ment­ed (see Cheev­er, John), WASPs are not known for their culi­nary sense of adven­ture, and the din­ner menu focus­es on updat­ed com­fort food—a slop­py joe made from Kobe beef brisket, white ched­dar mac and cheese, chick­en pot pie on Tues­days. The food at Pre­sidio Social Club isn't bad. It's not espe­cial­ly great, either. The fried okra, a hard dish to pull off above the Mason-Dixon line, is per­fect, but it feels a lit­tle exot­ic on a menu so fix­at­ed on Amer­i­can clas­sics. The night I went we were run­ning late for an event at the Palace of Fine Arts and so didn't get to try what looked like the best thing on the menu: cup­cakes made to order, brought to your table with a side of frost­ing for you to apply your­self. The next time I feel the need to observe the endan­gered WASP in its restored native habi­tat, I'll go back to Pre­sidio Social Club and try the cup­cakes.

Categories
cheese restaurant

Piccino

The T‑line may have brought Muni to a crash­ing halt, but it's done a lot for Dog­patch, and not just its real estate val­ues. Restau­rants, cafes, and gar­den stores have popped up along the Third Street cor­ri­dor in antic­i­pa­tion of Muni-enabled con­sumers flock­ing to the neigh­bor­hood. Bas­ing one's busi­ness plan on the via­bil­i­ty of Muni mov­ing any­one any­where seems unwise. Bas­ing one's busi­ness plan on serv­ing thin crust piz­za in a tiny space on an unlike­ly street cor­ner, how­ev­er, is a tried-and-true for­mu­la in San Fran­cis­co (see: Pizzetta 211). The apt­ly-named Pic­ci­no occu­pies such a cor­ner at 22nd Street and Ten­nessee. Pic­ci­no is lit­tle. It has a small menu. It serves small plates of nib­bles between lunch and din­ner. In the morn­ing you can find Blue Bot­tle cof­fee and fresh-baked pas­tries; at lunch piz­za and pani­ni take prece­dence; din­ner (only on select nights) builds on the lunch menu. I haven't expe­ri­enced break­fast and lunch, but at din­ner recent­ly I sam­pled three of the five piz­zas on offer, plus dessert. By sam­pled I mean split with one oth­er per­son. Like every­thing else at Pic­ci­no, the piz­zas aren't big. Which isn't bad, because it means you can eas­i­ly order three for two peo­ple and not feel too glut­ton­ish or stuffed. The crust is right-on—a per­fect com­bi­na­tion of crisp and chewy. The top­pings are a lit­tle less excit­ing. The night I was there, they had a margheri­ta, napo­le­tano, pep­per­one, bian­co, and a spe­cial involv­ing lemon zest and pine nuts. The toma­to sauce on the pep­per­one was a lit­tle too acidic for me, and the bian­co was a lit­tle bland. The real stand-out fla­vors were on the spe­cial, par­tic­u­lar­ly the lemon zest. The piz­za is good; we didn't leave any left­overs. Pic­ci­no is a great neigh­bor­hood restau­rant. If I lived in Dog­patch, I would be their most loy­al cus­tomer. Too bad I live in Cole Val­ley. This is the Gold­en Age of Piz­za in the Bay Area. With the likes of Pizzette, Pizze­ria Del­fi­na, Lit­tle Star, and Piz­zaio­lo around, it's not enough to be good if you want to pull peo­ple in from out of the neigh­bor­hood. While I'm will­ing to brave the Bay Bridge for Piz­zaio­lo, or the Rich­mond fog for Pizzette, Pic­ci­no isn't quite com­pelling enough for the trek to Dog­patch.

Categories
cheese restaurant

Maverick

Iceman's going for the hard-deck. Let's nail him, Goose! Atten­tion: Every­one should turn, burn and check out Mav­er­ick, the lit­tle restau­rant near the cor­ner of 17th and Mis­sion. Sure, it seems like it might be below your per­son­al hard-deck; it looks a lit­tle too Blondie's, maybe a lit­tle too Limon. But believe me, any place that serves fresh pep­pers with a gar­nish of ancho chiles is a dan­ger zone well worth tak­ing a high­way to, even if that high­way isn't real­ly a high­way. Seri­ous­ly: Call the ball. Order the steak. And the ribs. The stone fruit sal­ad will be a bogey on your tail for days after­ward. Where's MiG one? He's at Mav­er­ick. Affir­ma­tive, Ghost Rid­er, the pat­tern is full. Because the pat­tern just ate at Mav­er­ick.

Categories
cheese

Goat Cheese Pyramid

The Andante Dairy goat cheese pyra­mid is a lit­tle like that rare wood­peck­er in Arkansas that some peo­ple say they have seen and oth­ers say is extinct. If you can get up ear­ly enough, you might catch a fleet­ing glimpse of the pyra­mid at the Andante stand at the Fer­ry Plaza Sat­ur­day Farm­ers Mar­ket. I have been lucky enough to catch it twice; all oth­er times I have either been too late (and I would argue that 9:00 a.m. shouldn't be con­sid­ered late for a week­end morn­ing unless you hap­pen to have a baby in the house) or the per­son at the stand has denied all knowl­edge of even the exis­tence of the pyra­mid. The pyra­mid is an aged goat cheese, firm and creamy, yet a lit­tle crumbly, the per­fect con­sis­ten­cy for eat­ing on a crack­er. The first time I bought one, I served it to din­ner guests, ladies with petite appetites who only ate half of it and I spent a glo­ri­ous week eat­ing goat cheese pyra­mid on starr ridge crack­ers for din­ner. The sec­ond time I bought one, I served it to din­ner guests, rav­en­ous glut­tons who devoured the whole thing in the time it took me to prep a leg of lamb for the grill. My rec­om­men­da­tion: put the pyra­mid on your life list while main­tain­ing to oth­ers that it is only a myth.

Categories
cheese

Cowgirl Creamery Pierce Pt

Recent­ly at a din­ner par­ty I met an eli­gi­ble, attrac­tive sort, not real­ly my type but entic­ing nonethe­less. Cow­girl Creamery's sea­son­al Pierce Pt. is a cheese per­fect for a fling: it's creamy and com­plex, and it's only around for a short time so you don't have to wor­ry about mak­ing a long-term com­mit­ment. It's a whole milk cheese bathed in mosca­to and rolled in dried herbs (some­thing I often wish would hap­pen to me); it shows up in fall and win­ter and is gone by spring, inspir­ing a gath­er-ye-cheese-rounds-while-ye-may approach when you find it on a cheese plate.

Categories
cheese

Blondie's best

this is a pleas­ant lit­tle aged cow's milk cheese from a North­ern Cal­i­for­nia cheese­mak­er whose name I can­not recall. Rest assured, though, that if you're try­ing to eat as local­ly as pos­si­ble, blondie's best can safe­ly be on your gro­cery list. It's some­what like an aged jack, or an aged hip­pie, with that kind of mel­low nut­ti­ness, cut with a lit­tle tang. It's good on a crack­er but also works well in a sal­ad with some dried cher­ries and toast­ed almonds.

Categories
cheese

Appleby's Cheshire

with a wedge of appleby's cheshire in the house, one is always eat­ing good in the neigh­bor­hood. It's a Neal's Yard cheese, and so far in San Fran­cis­co I've only found it at Whole Foods. There are oth­er cheshires to be had in the city, and accord­ing to the grumpy pro­pri­etor of the cheese shop in my neigh­bor­hood Neal's Yard cheeses are over­priced, but to me Appleby's is the best tast­ing. It is the ched­dar of my dreams. I know you shouldn't keep hard cheeses in the refrig­er­a­tor, but I've always found that when left out, they take on a kind of oily sheen that I don't find very appe­tiz­ing. The cheshire, on the oth­er hand, gets bet­ter and bet­ter the longer it is left out. Fresh from the fridge it has a kind of firm but creamy tex­ture; when left out it takes on a delec­table crum­bli­ness that inten­si­fies the fla­vor. A piece of cheshire on a starr ridge crack­er is a meal for kings. The only prob­lem with leav­ing it out is that it can become a meal for dogs. Bis­cuit has to date swiped four blocks of cheshire care­less­ly left with­in swip­ing dis­tance on the counter. She always does such a com­plete job, leav­ing nary a crumb, that I often don't real­ize until a day lat­er. The dog is not known for her refined palate, but she makes an extra effort for the cheshire.

Categories
cheese

Quark

Quark (when it's not a sub­atom­ic par­ti­cle) is a byprod­uct of curds and whey that results in what some describe as "a Ger­man-style cream cheese," oth­ers describe as "a cross between yogurt and cot­tage cheese," and still oth­ers describe as "yum­my." This Sat­ur­day we bought some lemon quark at the Spring Hill Jer­sey Farm. This can best be described as tast­ing like the fill­ing of a lemon cheese­cake. You can eat it with a spoon, spread it on toast, or just use your fin­ger to scoop out deli­cious lemo­ny creamy pleas­ant­ly tangy milk fats in a semi-sol­id state. My friend Reed recalls that in Hol­land, they sell quark in some­thing like yogurt-con­tain­ers, and that there it is most­ly like pud­ding. I like it best spread on toast and driz­zled with some 420 Hon­ey.

Categories
cheese cheese lifestyle

Quesadilla

Peo­ple insist on invent­ing new pro­nun­ci­a­tions for this word, god knows why. I bet you could find entire regions in which the pre­dom­i­nant pro­nun­ci­a­tion of this word is kway-sa-dilya. "Can I get one kway-sa-dilya, and a side of ranch dress­ing, please?" To be sure, que­sadil­la is what lin­guists call a "loan" or "bor­rowed" word. In most cas­es, bor­row­ings are mod­i­fied so that they con­form to the pro­nun­ci­a­tion rules of the new lan­guage, but there's some­thing espe­cial­ly insult­ing about mis­pro­nounc­ing a word as seem­ing­ly wide­spread as que­sadil­la. I would feel way more sym­pa­thet­ic to some­one who stum­bles through "smoked trout nicoise sal­ad with hearts of romaine and dijon vini­a­grette" than a word that is on the god­dam Taco Bell menu. The tru­ly mys­te­ri­ous thing is that the peo­ple who mis­pro­nounce "que­sadil­la" are inevitably peo­ple who look like they prob­a­bly know the Taco Bell menu by heart. I can see why peo­ple are inclined to say "kweh-sa" or "kway-sa," because "qu" is "kwa" in words like "qui­et" or "ques­tion." And I can under­stand why peo­ple of French-Cana­di­an descent may be inclined to pro­nounce the "qu" as "ka" or "keh." I guess I can also under­stand say­ing "dil­la" as "dilya" or "dil­lah" rather than "diya," but I'm rel­a­tive­ly sure that these same peo­ple pro­nounce "tor­tilla" cor­rect­ly. But maybe they don't. Maybe they say "tortilya." When you string all of the mis­pro­nun­ci­a­tions togeth­er, and you get things like kway-sa-dilya, or kah-sa-dil­lah, it just makes you sad for the state of civ­i­liza­tion, for the future of lan­guage, for the like­li­hood that things that mat­ter will be fur­ther erod­ed by peo­ple who sim­ply don't pay atten­tion. On the oth­er hand, it's also a per­fect exam­ple of peo­ple vot­ing with their feet, or their mouths as the case may be. Which is inter­est­ing yet ter­ri­fy­ing, as always.

Categories
cheese

Old Amsterdam

Ahh, Ams­ter­dam. Some­times I wish there was a Gen­er­al Foods Inter­na­tion­al Cof­fee fla­vor that would trans­port me back to those gauzy days on the banks of the Ams­tel — the cool fall breeze, the Night­watch, the hazy cof­feeshop after­noons. Actu­al­ly, to faith­ful­ly recre­ate those sim­pler times, a sin­gle cup of cof­fee would have to knock me on my ass and erase my mem­o­ry for a week. Fur­ther­more, it would have to make me feel like I'd been lobot­o­mized, and send my life into a ter­ri­ble, slow-motion tail­spin. It would also have to emp­ty my bank account, force me to live on nan bread from the Indi­an restau­rant next to my crap­py Lon­don apart­ment. (If not for the kind­ness and infi­nite­ly tol­er­ant under­stand­ing of Kar­la Betts, this era of my life would have been noth­ing more than a plat­ter of cheese cubes drift­ing silent­ly past me). While it can't faith­ful­ly recre­ate the Ams­ter­dam expe­ri­ence of my vague rec­ol­lec­tion, there is a cheese which has a way of tak­ing me back to a more ide­al place. It's called Old Ams­ter­dam. It's in the gou­da fam­i­ly, and it has got a nice salty bite bal­anced with the req­ui­site gou­da creami­ness. Does it lead me to spend 72 straight hours in the base­ment lounge of a hos­tel? No. But it tastes nice with crispy crack­ers, toma­toes, and olive oil, and it doesn't give me uncon­trol­lable crav­ings for falafel that I can't afford.